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The geography of protest

Port of Olympia bannerOn the matter of military, the Puget Sound area is a peculiarity. Parts of it are home to big military bases (at Fort Lewis, Bremerton and others) and are strongly pro-military. Other parts of it was strongly pacifist. (The split very much carries over into politics too.) The peculiarity is in how seldom the two have smashed up against each other.

The biggest reason, it seems, is geography: The two sides of the Puget occupy different, even if adjoining, pieces of turf. Which helps explain the emotional explosion at Olympia this week.

You don’t see much by way of anti-war protests over at Bremerton, a major Nevy center. Nor much on the south side of Tacoma, where Fort Lewis is located – and a lot of troops have shipped out from Fort Lewis to Iraq. On the other hand, you don’t see a lot of military presence in central Seattle, where a lot of anti-war feeling in the region is based. Or in Olympia, where Evergreen State College has been an anchor for anti-war passion in the area.

That is, until recently. A couple of years back, the commissioners setting policy for the Port of Olympia decided to accept military shipments – to and from the port – which they hadn’t until then for about a decade. For most yers past, the military has relied on the Port of Tacoma for its shipping, and it still does, but volume going in and out of the area has increased. And from a scheduling standpoint, there’s sense in having two ports available rather than one.

And so, when the military have shown up at the port in the last couple of weeks, so have Olympia’s anti-war protesters. The emotional levels have gotten ratcheted up, and pepper spray has been deployed. The results aren’t wonderful news for anyone involved.

But they do raise a question for the protesters. Why are shipments from the Port of Tacoma, 30 miles away, okay, but much smaller shipments at Olympia are not? Does one set of rules apply for one’s hometown, and another for the city down the road?

Evidently, since that could explain why the Puget Sound hasn’t experienced more collisions up to now.

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